Virtual fieldtrip explores recycling

Published 6:20 am Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tuesday was America Recycles Day and Pike County really has something to crow about.

KW Plastics in Troy is the world’s largest plastics recycler and is also one of Pike County’s largest employers.

In conjunction with America Recycles Day, Stephanie Baker, KW Plastics director of market development, conducted a virtual field trip for students at five area high schools via Troy University’s ACCESS Lab.

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The participating high schools were Charles Henderson, Headland, McKenzie, Amelia Johnson and Dothan.

Baker said that recycling is often thought of as an eco-conscious practice and it is good for people to be concerned about and protective of the environment.

“Recycling has many rewards like energy and natural resource conservation but, often the general public doesn’t realize that recycling is actually an economic issue, too,” Baker said.

KW Plastics has two divisions – one that recycles automotive battery casings and another that recycles post-consumer bottles such as shampoo and detergent bottles and milk jugs.

“Almost every home in America has products that are made from recycled materials processed right here in Troy,” Baker said.

Even as the world’s largest recycler of plastics, Baker said KW is operating at only about 70 to 75 percent capacity.

“What hinders KW’s expansion of its facilities is that we just can’t get the scrap materials,” she said. “That’s mainly because people are not recycling. For instance, if we had to depend solely on Alabama for recyclables, we could only run our plant for two days each year. KW has to buy from all over North America. Ninety percent of all of the plastic materials that we get comes from six areas including Florida and Chicago.”

Baker said that is due to the lack of landfill space in those areas and the high tipping fees at the landfills.

“In addition to helping the environment, recycling pays dividends for everyone,” she said. “If Alabamians would recycle just 10 percent more each year, the potential impact would be more than 1,400 new jobs, more than $66 million in personal annual income and $3 million in annual sales tax revenue.

“And, Alabama is not one of our most populated states. Imagine what an economic boom it would be if all 50 states increased their recycling efforts by only 10 percent.”

Baker said every recyclable product has a price tag attached to it and people are literally throwing money into the landfills when recyclers are starving for materials.

“I encourage everyone to consider recycling as an economic issue, not just an environmental one,” she said.